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QR Codes – A great marketing tool or an advertising bombshell?!

BBC Logo QR Code

In a nutshell
At its most basic, a QR Code is a barcode on steroids!
They’re used for encoding information in two-dimensional space, like in the pages of magazines, in advertisements and even on TV and Websites. They were originally used for tracking motor parts in the automotive industry, but have since become increasingly popular (especially in Japan) for much broader, often commercial purposes.


How does it differ from a barcode?
A normal barcode encodes data in only the horizontal plane (as scanners read the width and distance between the vertical lines), whereas QR codes encode data both horizontally and vertically in a grid of tiny squares. This allows for much more data to be encoded in a smaller space. Barcodes are good for little more than identifying products and objects, specially programmed scanners can read barcodes and then match them to product names, prices and inventory, but that’s about it! QR codes on the other hand, can actually embed that information in the code itself, and, when read with the proper software, can trigger actions like launching a website or downloading a file. Additionally, QR codes can be read from any angle, while barcodes must be aligned properly.


So the question is, are they actually serving a purpose or just cluttering billboard advertisements?


If a QR code is just there to point you to a website, what’s the point? Surely typing a url name would be quicker than scanning?

QR codes are tailor-made for quickly and easily linking to content on smart phones. Simple uses include magazine advertisements that link to websites. Putting the codes to more complex use, start-up Pingtag uses them as a sort of digital business card for sharing LinkedIn accounts and contact info. Android uses QR codes to link directly to apps in the Android Marketplace, and the municipality of Bordeaux in France, has posted them all over the city in order to track parking meters, provide links to information from the World Heritage Foundation and guide visitors to nearby shops or parking locations via Google Maps. In turn, Google has been using QR codes to promote local businesses (and itself) with the Google Places business directory, which includes reviews, contact info, and if the business so wishes, coupons. All of which offers a good way of connecting businesses with people (if used correctly!)

Here’s a recent case example of where QR codes in advertising, simply doesn’t work.
Last summer saw energy drinks giant ‘Red Bull’ launch a campaign using a QR-code linking users to a microsite, one major problem with this is that the adverts were placed in underground stations and subways, unfortunately most of which don’t have mobile connectivity, not the greatest idea!


Additionally check out this list of other QR code failures, it makes for quite a read…

What’s quite intriguing is the way the creative agencies are pushing the boundaries in how they look or how they are displayed on printed media. Let’s face it, a QR code isn’t the most inviting of images, and for some people who don’t even know what purpose it serves (or care to find out), it just adds to what may already be a confusing advertisement, like many adverts seen today that try to convey too many messages in one space. Either way QR codes are here in abundance, and whether you love or hate them, as long as they are used appropriately they can offer a connective way of marketing.

Check out some of the ones we found…
Winter themed! A poster of a snowman made completely out of QR codes…


QR Snowman


…or maybe you’d prefer your presents to be wrapped in QR codes…?!


QR Present


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